From USA Today:
From his distant vantage point treating Marines at a base in Iwakuni, Japan, [Navy Cmdr. Mark] Russell, 46, has been speaking out for three years that the U.S. military faces a mental health crisis in the treatment of its combat veterans.
He has fired off memos to higher command and has gone public with his views, an unusual step for many in the military. Russell discussed his concerns in phone and Internet interviews. "We cannot provide the standard of care to treat PTSD via psychotherapy when we can barely keep up with new referrals and have to manage crises while filling in for the staffing gaps and vacancies due to deployment, attrition or no billeting," Russell says. "This is why I have been so outspoken."
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Russell testified at the Pentagon's Task Force on Mental Health hearings in San Diego recently, pointing to the following problems:
•Mental health trauma is on the rise. Army studies show that more than a third of combat-deployed troops seek mental health care when they return home.
•Training for mental health professionals is inadequate. A survey by Russell of 133 military mental health providers done from 2003-05 shows that 90% of the psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers reported no formal training or supervision in four PTSD therapies recommended by the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs.
•Staffing is down. Russell says vacancies remain for mental health providers in the Navy. In addition, psychiatrists and psychologists deployed overseas deplete resources at home, and burnout makes it hard to keep skilled therapists on staff, he says. His concerns were supported by a 2005 Army study showing one of three mental health providers deployed in the war zone report high burnout or low motivation or morale.
Klam says the Army and Navy have emphasized providing mental health counseling in war zones at an unprecedented level. As a result, he says, the military has a record of returning more than 98% of troops with emotional issues back to their units.
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